Tamil film ‘Koozhangal,’ a biting tale on rural poverty, is India’s entry to Oscars

'Koozhangal', which revolves around the journey a father and son make across an dry, bare terrain of rural Tamil Nadu, has been selected from 14 films shortlisted this year

Award-winning Tamil film 'Koozhangal', produced by Nayanthara and Vignesh Sivan, has been selected to represent India in the international feature film category for the 94th Academy Awards

Award-winning Tamil film ‘Koozhangal’, produced by Nayanthara and Vignesh Sivan, has been selected to represent India in the international feature film category for the Oscars 2021. The Oscars is scheduled to be held on March 27, 2022 in Los Angeles.

This announcement was made today by Shaji N Karun, the chairperson of the 15-member selection committee, said media reports. The Film Federation of India (FFI) had formed a committee to pick the movie that will best represent Indian cinema at the Oscars.

‘Koozhangal’ (‘Pebbles’) has been directed by PS Vinothraj, who has already bagged the prestigious Tiger Award at the International Film Festival Rotterdam earlier this year. The film revolves around the journey a father and son make across an dry, bare terrain of rural Tamil Nadu.

Director PS Vinothraj

“I am really, really happy,” 31-year-old Vinothraj told Scroll.in. “We have made this film with a lot of love.”

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The film portrays a day in the lives of an inebriated father Ganapathy (Karuththadaiyaan), who takes his quietly observant son Velu (Chella Pandi) to meet his estranged wife. On the bus, they meet a despairing young woman holding a baby in her arms.

Vinothraj reportedly loosely based this film, set in Melur oustide Madurai, on his younger sister, who was thrown out of her home by her drunk husband one night in 2015. She had walked 13 km with her child to reach her parents’ home, said a Scroll.in report. Mulling over what she may have faced along the way is what Vinothraj had often wondered about and this is what made its way into the film.

Also read: Sherni, Mandela, Nayattu, Sardar Udham in race for India’s Oscars entry

A synopsis of the film on the International Film Festival Rotterdam said, “The inhabitants of the village Arittapatti in Southern India depend entirely on agriculture, which has suffered terribly due to a long drought. The fields have become deserts and the skinny livestock eat the last leaves. The women catch and roast rats or wait for hours until it is their turn to pull muddy water from the well. The men hang around, play cards and sleep.

One of the latter is Ganapathy, a chain-smoking drunk with a permanent frown. His wife has fled the home and his domestic violence, but he is determined to fetch her back from her village. He forces his young son to join him. At his in-laws, Ganapathy causes a terrible scene and in revenge, his son tears up the money for the return bus journey. This is the start of a 13-km long walk on one of the hottest days of the year.

‘Koozhangal’ has been picked out of 14 films shortlisted this year. These included Vidya Balan’s ‘Sherni’, Shoojit Sircar’s biopic ‘Sardar Udham’, the Tamil political satire ‘Mandela’, and Martin Prakkat’s Malayalam film ‘Nayattu’.

Among the films that India has sent to the Oscars in the past decade have been Lijo Josse Pellissery’s ‘Jallikattu’, Rima Das’ ‘Village Rockstars’, Gyan Correa’s ‘The Good Road’, Vetri Maaran’s ‘Visaaranai’, Chaitanya Tamhane’s ‘Court’ and Geethu Mohandas’ ‘Liar Dice.

India however has never bagged an award in this category. Just Mehboob Khan’s ‘Mother India’ (1957), Mira Nair’s ‘Salaam Bombay!’ (1998) and Ashutosh Gowariker’s ‘Lagaan’ had made it to the shortlist and in 1992, Satyajit Ray was given an honorary Lifetime Achievement Oscar – the first Indian to be given the award.

One of the reasons Indians have not taken the black lady home is largely because despite a financial grant from the Union government in the recent years, Indian filmmakers are unable to spend on expensive advertising and hiring American publicists to stir up interest about their films with Academy voters.

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